The debate between need and best player available is one that is long and full of good arguments for both sides. I think drafting for need is where a team leans if they are competing for something real and need players who will add something to the team immediately. Drafting best available is the path when a team is rebuilding.
The Magic have been and are clearly still in the middle. They are still trying to figure out their path forward.
People might hate me for arguing this, but the Magic are still somewhat in the beginning of their rebuilding phase. They are still collecting the actual players they want to build around. They just also have the philosophy that players develop best in winning environments and they have players good enough to buoy them in the weakened Eastern Conference.
Has drafting best player available all the time failed? Yes and no.
The real goal in any draft is to get a player who can contribute and grow. In that sense, taking the best player available regardless of need is always the right choice.
By taking the best player available, a team gives itself the best chance to hit on a star. Or at least hit on a player who will make a big impact on the team.
The bottom line is that teams have to draft well. They need to get players that will contribute and impact the team. The best way to do that is to take the best player on your board.
Whether the Magic have accomplished this through Jonathan Isaac, Mohamed Bamba and Chuma Okeke is certainly something up for debate. Jeff Weltman’s draft record is a bit spotty in some places. But Isaac has been a productive and potentially elite player, when healthy. And Bamba has shown positive signs even if he has a long way to go.
The bigger question, and perhaps the issue with always drafting best player available, is how everything fits together. And yes, the Magic have to start considering fit in this bigger picture. At least with the players they want to keep.
Drafting another long-armed forward? That is not a good idea. How are Okeke and Isaac supposed to develop or figure out if they can play together with another young wing demanding minutes too?
If the team drafts a guard to backup Evan Fournier for a year, that is fine. Growing players off the bench and putting them in small roles that they can succeed in is a fine way to develop. There are ways to make players fit behind veterans waiting in the wings.
But what the Magic have to do is start to find ways to make those long-term players fit together. They have to pick players that are the best on the board and can possibly fit in with the players this team truly cares about.
Right now, the fit is unclear for its potential. But the Magic are still in something of a talent collection phase. Yes, they have won enough to make the Playoffs twice. But this is not the final product and not the final answer.
This team is still rebuilding.
That does mean the team should explore trading up. Most likely, the right deal has not come around for them to do so — whether that is because the player was not there or they were hesitant to give up young players on their roster.